We are almost two weeks into the New Year and that means that we have had ample time to make our resolutions – and break them! When I was younger, I made resolutions every year and it still amazes me at how few of them I actually kept.
Gyms and fitness companies are notorious about running huge numbers of ads encouraging people to come in and sign up to get fit. And companies such as Jenny Craig and WeightWatchers do the same thing – playing on our desire to lose weight and adopt a more healthy way of eating in the new year. Of course, one of the ways to entice us is to offer incredible deals – saving us money for a trial period. It’s kind of like the idea of the razor companies – give people the razor but sell them the blades. Classic ploy – get them reeled in to your product or service.
I do, however, remember one year that I kept my resolution. It was Dec. 31, 1979 and it was the night that I quit smoking cigarettes. Notice that I didn’t quit long before the end of the year – and I needed it to be the end of a decade in order to really psyche myself of that I could really quite smoking. Come to think of it, that night was probably one of the best nights I ever had in terms of living with a resolution that I had made. And to this day, almost 40 years later, I haven’t broken that commitment.
No other resolution has withstood the test of time like this one. But I keep thinking about it – and why these types of commitments generally don’t work. I have come to the conclusion that it’s because, in most cases, we aren’t ready to really change a behavior. Instead, we pit ourselves against the clock and try to force ourselves into a situation that we believe we can live with – when in reality we aren’t ready.
Not only have we made our resolutions, but we have most likely broken them already as well. So what’s a better way to approach this idea of changing our behaviors? Maybe it is just to start changing our lives for the better when we feel ready to do that. Nothing happens in an instant and change is usually from the inside out. In other words, we first sense the need to change internally – and then as time goes on we exhibit our new behavior that is eventually visible to others. So New Year’s resolutions are really a substitute for just making lifestyle changes.
Whether it is losing weight or getting more fit, we must put in the work before others will see the results. That is just the way it is. Our verse for the evening speaks to the maturing of people in the Christian life. None of us is born with an innate knowledge of the Scripture. It is through an ongoing commitment to study, a little at a time, that we grow in our faith. And it doesn’t have to happen at the beginning of a year!
The writer of Hebrews tells us that in the beginning, when we first feel the call of the Holy Spirit to change, we can’t “eat” sold food. Instead, we start with “milk” and eventually move up to solid food as we grow in our faith. We are told, in Hebrews 5:11-14, “…You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
My encouragement tonight is that God doesn’t care about the date that you start to get to know Him better. It doesn’t have to be the beginning of a year, and it doesn’t have to be overnight. It just has to be a journey that you take with the Creator of the universe. My prayer is that 2018 will show that you have made some progress on your journey with the Lord. As long as you are closer at the end of the year than you are today, it’s a win! It’s not a contest to see who can grow their faith the most – it’s the development of an intimate friendship with God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…